How workplaces are handling the coronavirus outbreak

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Companies around the US have started to plan in the event of a possible outbreak of novel coronavirus.

At least 65 countries have reported cases of the infection, according to The New York Times, with more than 89,000 people have been infected across the globe. With the possibility of an outbreak growing by the days, the Centers for Disease Control have advised companies to start planning to protect their workforce from COVID-19.

Worldwide, at least 3,000 people have died and two have died in the US, according to NPR. Over the weekend, the first confirmed cases of Coronavirus were reported in Florida, New York, and Rhode Island.

The reality of a coronavirus outbreak will test the workforce beyond financial measures. With the rise of remote working, many companies have started encouraging their workers to take the option of working from home, especially in the case of an outbreak.

“Coronavirus is accelerating working from home, a trend that was already happening in many businesses and organizations,” said Lynda Lowe, Group Marketing Director at Condecor Software, in a statement. “According to our Modern Workplace 2019 report 41% of employers now offer some form of remote working and we expect that figure to be even higher in our next report due to be released in April.

New technology has enabled companies to offer employees this flexibility and that means that even in the midst of a global crisis businesses can carry on productively with limited impact in a secure and collaborative way. Threats to business come from many areas but those companies that are using technology to maximize their productivity already, including the ability to meet in a virtual meeting online or book desks, workspace or meeting spaces from a remote location, will find it easier to ride out disruption.”

The outbreak of coronavirus even has some employers backtracking on previous remote bans.

In 2017, IBM told thousands of remote workers in the US that working-from-home was no longer an option, according to The Wall Street Journal. But in wake of coronavirus, The Washington Post reported the company said Thursday that workers in affected areas can work “wherever possible.” The plan was issued to workers in China, Japan, South Korea, and Italy, according to the paper.

Chevron told its workers in its London office to work remotely after one employee experienced flu-like symptoms, according to CNN Business. The report, citing sources, said that the Chevron employee was tested for coronavirus and employees were advised to work remotely until the results of the test come to light.

Page Six reported a top executive and staffers at Sirius XM have been quarantined over coronavirus concerns. A memo from the company’s human resources department outlined that some attendees at a recent meeting had traveled through Japan, which is one of the countries heavily hit by the virus. The memo instructed participants in that meeting to work from home for the next two weeks.

The CDC said all sick employees should stay at home and away from work, and for workers still in the office, employees should consider hand hygiene and respiratory hygiene, which simply means covering your cough.

As for employers, the CDC recommended the following steps companies should follow:

  • Create a flexible plan that involves your employees in developing and reviewing your plan.
  • Implement an exercise that uses your plan. This is important because it’ll allow time to figure out the problems that need to be corrected.
  • Share the plan with employees. Be communicative of human resource policies, pay and benefits, and workplace and leave flexibilities.
  • Share the practices with other businesses in your communities.
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